Hey Mr. Green,
I'm shopping around for a more efficient refrigerator. Since I could probably do without a freezer, I'm wondering what would be most efficient: a fridge-only model, a freezer-only model with the thermostat turned way up, a one-door cooler-and-freezer unit, or a two-door unit with the freezer on top.
--Jerry in South Ozone Park, New York
Thanks to toughened federal regulations, modern refrigerators use less than half as much energy as those made 15 years ago. The best place to find the most-efficient models for little or big chills is the EPA's Energy Star site. Simply type in the size and style you're looking for and voila, you get a list of refrigerators that are 10 to 30 percent more efficient than the government's already-strict standard. You'll quickly learn that side-by-side freezer-fridge models are the least efficient. Because freezers are set up to keep things, well, frozen, it might seem like a dicey proposition to turn one into a box to keep your veggies fresh and your beer cool.
However, I found one adventurous tinkerer who rigged his freezer to use a meager 50 kilowatt-hours per year--a fraction of what even the stingiest fridge consumes. He says he accomplished this by replacing the freezer thermostat with one that allows warmer temperatures. I don't recommend such engineering feats to my intelligent but predominantly thermostat-challenged audience, but in the interest of citizen science, I'll refer you to the innovator's findings.